In his mock epic The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope focuses on several major themes. The primary theme is the emptiness and frivolity of courtly, upper-class life, which Pope satirizes hilariously. The whole poem centers around a single lock of hair that has been clipped by the Baron...
In his mock epic The Rape of the Lock, Alexander Pope focuses on several major themes. The primary theme is the emptiness and frivolity of courtly, upper-class life, which Pope satirizes hilariously. The whole poem centers around a single lock of hair that has been clipped by the Baron from the nape of Belinda's neck. This one act of minor thievery leads to an explosion of emotions from Belinda, mock battles between ladies and gentlemen (aided by the sylphs), and an abundance of trouble. Pope is hinting, of course, that people of this class have nothing better to do or focus on than the silly act of cutting a little piece of hair. He seems to be inviting readers to think about their own concentrations in life and reflect if they, too, have sometimes overblown a very minor issue into a major catastrophe.
Pope also pokes fun at the vanity of the characters. Belinda is so inordinately upset about the loss of her lock of hair because she believes that it negatively affects her appearance, and that can simply not be tolerated, not after the immense time and effort she has put in to making herself beautiful. Her morning routine is almost religious in its elaborate rituals, as though Belinda is worshiping at the altar of beauty. Her goal is to dazzle everyone she meets and to receive their praise and adoration for her extreme beauty. Belinda, then, is so vain that she focuses completely on her external appearance, caring little about who she is as a person and worrying constantly about such matters as staining her dress or losing some jewelry. In his satire of Belinda, Pope nudges his readers to reflect on their own vanity and concerns.
Pope also delves into the theme of men, women, and their relationships. He snickers at the false heroism of men who wage their “heroic” battles at a card table and the miserable interest of a man who pours all his attention into cutting off a lock of a woman's hair. These are hardly the brave knights of old. Women, too, do not escape the cutting edge of Pope's pen. They are portrayed as vain creatures, emotional to an extreme, bent on getting exactly what they want and horrified if they do not. They are silly and shallow with little in their minds except their appearance and their desire to be admired. The relationships between these foolish creatures can be nothing else than foolish. Instead of holding a conversation with Belinda, for instance, the Baron expresses his love by snipping her hair and beginning a battle.
Finally, Pope makes fun of the false worship in which his characters engage. They worship at the altars of beauty and pleasure. Belinda's morning beauty routine is almost a religious ritual, as are the Baron's preparations for stealing the lock as he prays for help to carry out his plan. A whole crowd of spirits assist the humans in their silliness, supposedly warning and protecting them but actually often leading them directly into bad behavior. Indeed, Pope pokes at his audience's consciences a bit through this theme, making them think about what it is that they are worshiping.